Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

BUSINESS DAILY

Federal Reserve hikes interest rates, raises forecast

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Saudi Arabia and UAE pledge €130M for G5 Sahel Joint Force

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

‘Trump still committed to a two-state solution,’ says Saudi Foreign Minister Jubeir

Read more

THE DEBATE

How to patrol the Sahara? The challenges facing G5 Sahel joint force

Read more

ENCORE!

Film show: 'Star Wars, The Last Jedi'

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Evo Morales: US exit from Paris accord is 'unforgivable'

Read more

FOCUS

Niger's Agadez: Pearl of the Sahara turned migrant hub

Read more

FOCUS

Spain's Tagus river is drying up

Read more

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

'Looking for Oum Kulthum': Breaking the glass ceiling in the art world

Read more

FOCUS

Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.

Latest update : 2014-06-17

Report: Thailand’s military junta wages happiness offensive

© FRANCE 24

Thailand’s generals, who seized power in a military coup in May to end increasingly violent political turmoil, are hell-bent on imposing happiness on the population. FRANCE 24 reports from Bangkok.

After relaxing some of the curfews that threatened Bangkok’s vital tourist trade, and giving the country free access to the football World Cup on terrestrial TV, the country’s soldiers are taking to the streets with a message of joie de vivre.

Several times a week since the coup, the junta has organised large street parties in the capital, complete with free food and medical care, in a bid to win over the population.

"We are very happy,” one reveler told FRANCE 24. “Most Thai people are very satisfied that the army is trying to solve the problem before we have an election. Maybe they'll need a year or a year and a half, but that doesn't matter."

Junta leader’s sentimental ballad

On the streets of Bangkok, there seems to be some genuine optimism and hope for a literal “Return to Happiness in Thailand”, the title of a sentimental ballad written by junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Achieving this happiness is going to be a challenge in the long term, as arrests, censorship and curfews remain a daily reality for most Thais.

Colonel Werachon Sukondhapatipak, spokesman for the junta which titles itself the “National Council for Peace and Order”, told FRANCE 24 that genuine happiness was vital to the generals’ bid to institute meaningful and lasting social reform.

“We want to gain trust and confidence,” he said, explaining that street parties were a way for the army to connect with the people, even the “Red Shirts” movement, which supports ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

“People would not listen to one another in the past. Everything they do is in order to win against each other. But this time we just want to create the atmosphere in which people listen to one another.”

‘Methods worthy of the Gestapo’

FRANCE 24 visited a neighbourhood shopping mall that was a popular zone for the Red Shirts, where happiness and optimism were in short supply.

A bookseller, one of the few traders still present at the mall, told FRANCE 24: “The Thai military can say what they want. These are the methods of dictators. It's not by organizing parties and concerts throughout the country that we are going to solve our problems. People might not be saying anything, but deep in their hearts, they hate the coup."

It’s a sentiment shared by Chuwat Rerksirisuk, Editor-in-Chief of news site Prachatai and a well-known advocate of free speech.

"This is a time bomb,” he said. “The more the junta tries to suppress people's rights, the more anger they will create. This is a strategy of psychological warfare; organizing parties with guns to their heads, and censoring, stopping and controlling everything with methods worthy of the Gestapo."
 

By Cyril PAYEN

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2017-12-13 Africa

Niger's Agadez: Pearl of the Sahara turned migrant hub

Niger's desert city of Agadez has long been at the heart of migration routes. Once home to camel caravans, Agadez is now one of the primary transit points for migrants hoping to...

Read more

2017-12-12 Europe

Spain's Tagus river is drying up

As world leaders discuss climate change in Paris, we bring you a report from Spain, which has been in the grip of drought since 2014. One of the consequences is the plight of the...

Read more

2017-12-11 Americas

USA: Voters speak out ahead of Alabama Senate race

On Tuesday December 12, an election for a US Senate seat will take place in the state of Alabama. Despite credible claims of sexual misconduct from at least a dozen accusers, the...

Read more

2017-12-08 Senegal

Marine pollution around Dakar reaches critical levels

In Senegal, despite the country's hundreds of kilometers of coastline, a recent report on marine pollution is likely to put you off going for a swim. The ocean around the Dakar...

Read more

2017-12-07 Tunisia

Franco-Tunisian leads efforts to combat desertification

Like many other countries, Tunisia is faced with increasing desertification. Yet public awareness remains limited. Sarah Toumi is a young Franco-Tunisian who's been on Emmanuel...

Read more